Simulacra review: Digitally dark mystery adventure

Credit: Kaigan Games
Credit: Kaigan Games /

Simulacra is the new horror simulation game which excels in realism, and provides a solid foundation for this take-off mystery genre.

Developer: Kaigan Games
Publisher: Kaigan Games
Platforms: Android (Version reviewed), iOS, PC
Release Date: October 26, 2017

Mobile gaming’s evolution over the past few years is nothing less than extraordinary. Game developers have become adept at creatively breaking the fourth wall, and there are levels of immersion within mobile games that were never thought possible until now! Simulacra is the new mystery game from Malaysian game studio Kaigan Games, the studio who also produced its pre-cursor Sara is Missing.

These games play out as guided simulations, and put the player in full control of solving the mystery at hand. In Simulacra the player acts as sole protagonist, and the only weapon at hand is a modern day smartphone. The initial home screen is filled with a purple haze, and glaring synth to blast the player’s ear drums. There is an eerie feel to every motion in this game, and the devastatingly creepy changes within Anna’s home-screen will chill the most hardened of horror veterans .

The user interface is shaped to resemble an average smartphone with e-mail, text, web search and a dating app at the player’s disposal. There are starting clues such as videos Anna left before her disappearance, as well as the conversations started online through her social media and dating accounts. Every piece of information is necessary in finding the next clue, and every associate of Anna’s becomes a suspect.

There is a grand realism to this game as it pits player vs. the modern world of communication, but that does not mean it is completely grounded or without problems. Many clues feel unnaturally out of place, and some require heavy digging and backtracking to reach the next checkpoint. There are many haunting moments and visuals throughout, but a few feel tacky and ill-placed.

There is a sense of impending doom with each checkpoint.

But this game honestly shines in its portrayal of conversation, and its commentary on the realm of modern social media and online status. Texts between the player and Anna’s friends are very realistic, and the voice acting is superb in most aspects. Anna’s mother and the local detective (who seems to call at the worst times) are an exception to the stellar cast, and the level of immersion is reduced greatly during their segments unfortunately. The textual errors and misspellings throughout the game added another level of realism to small talk between friends, but the typos within the achievement banners made me realize these were not intentional, and again took away from the immersion factor.

There are multiple mini-games including solving anagrams through text, and piecing together images from the phone’s gallery. These types of challenges are very welcome, and they brought a level of intelligent puzzle solving that more mobile games need.  There are clues within every e-mail, text, and status update that must be used to discover Anna’s whereabouts, and the utilization of dialogue prompts also allows the player to make some situations a bit easier to traverse.

The climax actually offers multiple endings, and a true ending to those who have shown to be most ‘pure of heart’. Simulacra is more of a guided discovery adventure with horror elements as opposed to a pure mystery game. As one delves deeper in the twisted case at hand, the player realizes that each character is more a stepping stone than a permanent fixture. The ambiance is perfect within the game structure, and there is a sense of impending doom with each checkpoint. The brilliance in design must be recognized as conversations intersect and merge, and the final act of this game builds tension amazingly well.

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Kaigan Games. . Simulacra. 7. Beyond a few lacking voice actors and a somewhat unnatural tone at moments, this is a well-made piece of psychological horror. Simulacra shines in its storytelling, and many of the haunting visuals serve their purpose quite well. Kaigan Games has crafted a relatable and frightening thriller for the sleuth in all of us. It is a surefire pick up for those seeking a puzzling and frightening mystery within the confines of a black mirror.

A copy of this game was provided to App Trigger for the purpose of this review. All scores are ranked out of 10, with .5 increments. Click here to learn more about our Review Policy.